, SEOUL, Nov 22 – North Korea Friday called on China to return its citizens recently caught trying to flee to South Korea, accusing Seoul of luring and kidnapping its people.
The statement by the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) came after at least 13 refugees from North Korea were reportedly arrested this month in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming while they were trying to reach South Korea.
“The DPRK (North Korea) calls upon the countries concerned… to send back its inhabitants as early as possible as required by international law”, the CPRK spokesman said.
He accused the South and the United States of abducting North Koreans in order to use them for anti-North Korea smear campaigns.
The two nations were infiltrating “plot-breeding organisations under the guise of religion and human rights and brokers blinded with money-making” into a third country, he said, apparently referring to China.
Christian missionary groups are involved in helping people who flee from the North into China.
They help them transit China to a third country, from where they can fly to South Korea.
“This case is an unpardonable and unethical criminal act as it is another organised and deliberate abduction of inhabitants” of North Korea, the spokesman said.
Over the past 15 years, 25,600 North Koreans have fled famine or repression at home to settle in the capitalist South.
Almost all cross the North’s border into China. Many of them then secretly travel through China to a third nation — often in Southeast Asia — where they arrange to fly on to South Korea for resettlement.
China — the North’s sole major ally — considers the fugitives to be illegal economic migrants instead of refugees and repatriates those whom it catches.
Rights groups strongly criticise Beijing’s policy. The fugitives can face severe punishment including a term in a prison camp once they are sent back to the North.